What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

thor during civil war

I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. So why does this short bit with zero special effects work so well?

Let’s take it apart.

Comedy is incredibly hard. Even the pro’s at Saturday Night Live fail more often than succeed. The tough part of a short skit like this is variety.

Saturday Night Live and other skit shows tend to find one joke that does work, then beat it to death, making a five-minute skit feel like five hours.

The other path–multiple jokes that may or may not work–is much harder to pull off.

You won’t know if it works while writing or rehearsing it, and unless you film in front of a live audience, you won’t get feedback until you put that short film out there for the world to embrace or trash.

This bit about Thor works because they don’t rely on a single, repetitive joke. They had the guts to try a ton of different jokes, big or small, and to include little details that reward multiple viewings. Continue reading “What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”

Top 6 reasons why MAD MAX crushes AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON

Now, I enjoyed AVENGERS 2: GIVE DISNEY ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS and it’s perfectly fine as another piece of the Marvel movie assault on the galaxy.

It’s just that I wouldn’t happily head to the theater tonight to watch it again, while I will go back to see MAD MAX: FURY ROAD with friends who’ve yet to see it.

And I’m not alone: critics are going nuts for MAD MAX, with 98 percent of them loving it on Rotten Tomatoes vs. 74 percent giving the thumbs up for AVENGERS 2.

The New York Flipping Times wrote a glowing review of MAD MAX. That’s nuts.

Why is the Australian underdog kicking the pants off the greatest collection of box-office superheroes ever assembled? Continue reading “Top 6 reasons why MAD MAX crushes AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON”

What you need to know before seeing AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Unless you live in an ice cave, you know that AVENGERS 2 opens on May 1.

When it does open, all your friends will go see it, then ask what you thought about it, and What This Movie Means for the next 10 Marvel movies. Those films will feature Thor, Iron Man, Loki, and 16 other characters, and they will make $18 billion dollars.

Let’s get you educated on the whole Marvel shebang, then talk about why Marvel, against all odds, has taken over movie theaters for the next century.

Before you spend $42 on Imax tickets, 5800 calories worth of popcorn with fake butter drizzled on it and 72 ounces of Diet Coke, watch this video to refresh your knowledge of all things Marvel:

And now I’ll get serious for a moment.

Why have the Marvel movies rocked the box office so hard? Continue reading “What you need to know before seeing AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON”

Top 3 reasons why the new, extended trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON rocks so hard

1) It’s funny, and not in a forced way, like a Saturday Night Live skit that repeats the same joke seventeen times.

The actors seem natural and relaxed.

2) The director lets this scene play out.

Today, that’s rare, with directors eager to bust out the CGI and blow up more stuff that only exists as pixels on giant servers.

Josh Whedon figures he has enough excitement packed into the movie and gives us a long, funny breather. Which is wonderful, because not rushing the payoff for this scene makes is far more powerful.

3) That payoff is amazing, and a completely different emotion than how the scene started.

Ultron showing up like this is not only a surprise, but a shock, and his lines are simply perfect. Unsettling and dark and wonderful.

Well done, Josh the Whedon, well done. A far better trailer than the usual Michael Bay explosion-fest that’s required of every big-budget action movie.

 

Top 11 posts about the Big Screen and Such, Because Top 10 Lists are Common and therefore Boring:

The Red Pen of Doom dissects every Batman movie IN HISTORY

Top 5 reasons EDGE OF TOMORROW works — and why it redeems Tom the Cruise

THE WOLVERINE proves Writing Law #1 – Less is More

Seattle superheroes challenged by supervillain Rex Velvet

Hollywood: Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks

Seven movie clichés that must be NUKED FROM ORBIT

MAN OF STEEL and the Invincible Hero Problem

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Why it works

Big, Beautiful Movies with Sad, Stupid Endings

THE AVENGERS + THE BREAKFAST CLUB = AWESOMESAUCE

Like Godzilla in Tokyo, PACIFIC RIM smashes all expectations

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.
Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Many Bothans died to bring us this teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser

Long ago, in a galaxy named after a candy bar for some reason, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced–because the Mouse had bought the entire Star Wars franchise.

Everybody who grew up on the original Star Wars movies felt this pain.

I prepared myself for Disney princesses with cute neon pink lightsabers, then endless straight-to-video sequels and prequels that would make STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE look like THE GODFATHER. (Related: Why new STAR WARS movies by Disney are an achy breaky big mistakey)

However: this was before they announced that JJ Abrams would direct the first new movie.

Also: Disney also owns Marvel now, and Marvel is on an insanely successful roll.

 

All of the Marvel movies since IRON MAN have rocked. I figured the Captain America ones would stink, since it would be easy to make those corny and uber-patriotic, but they nailed both of them. WINTER SOLDIER is darker than dark. Loved it. On the other hand, FOX studios proves you can take a great character and great actor and absolutely blow the thing with two horrible Wolverine movies.

Marvel can’t do wrong. And now JJ Abrams, after rebooting Star Trek into awesomesauce, looks like he’s doing the same thing with Star Wars.

The only way this trailer could look and feel better is if the new Sith uses his wicked lightsaber to make a clean break with the Lucas prequels by slicing Jar-Jar Binks in half.

Super-powered mutant Avenger of the ocean: The Mighty Cuttlefish

random thursday crazy kittteh meme

I understand an octopus, a squid and a clam. Clams have shells. Squids and octopuses (octopi?) have tentacles and such.

But this alien beast has a shell — inside its body.

The cuttlefish’s bone is made of aragonite, the same special metal used to graft Wolverine’s claws and skeleton* and Captain America’s shield** — but not Thor’s hammer, which came from the heart of a dead star.***

Plus it’s got all kinds of other mutant super powers, like a poisoned beak, tentacles, a giant brain, secret alien-like jaws that sneak out of nowhere to eat fish — and color changing powers that make it practically invisible.

Think you’re iPhone’s fancy Retina screen is amazing? The cuttlefish has 200 iridophores and eucophores per square millimeter, which equals out to 359 dots per inch. Want one of those 4k screens but don’t have $10,000 to buy one? Make friends with a herd of cuttlefish and get them to spread out on your living room wall, then fire up THE MATRIX, but not the two sequels, which were a waste of Keanu Reeve’s precious time and $279 million in CGI effects.

Here’s a good look at the cuttlefish from my favorite animal documentary series on the planet, True Facts:

 

*Note to comic book gurus: Yes, I’m kidding. Wolverine’s claws and such are made of adamantium, which is created when titanium dioxide reaches the earth’s mantle and is compressed by millions of pounds per square inch at 4,500 degrees Celsius, then remerges to the surface through millions of years of plate tectonics along with the help of all kinds of Red Bulls and shots of bourbon while the comic book writers at Marvel try to make it all sound two-thirds scientific, one-third magical and 143 percent awesome.

**Also, the famous shield of Captain America is actually made of vibranium, a real metal alloy that’s also used in the manufacture of the B-2 stealth bomber because of its unique radar-absorbing properties. Vibranium is only found in one place: the southern pole of Mars, meaning all traces of it on earth came from a massive asteroid striking the pole and sending debris raining down upon Africa, the only continent where vibranium can now be mined. Buying this so far? Okay. There are these penny stocks, and if you know which ones to buy, you can turn ten cents into a dollar, $1 into $100 — and $100 into $100,000. All you have to is subscribe to my financial newsletter to learn the secrets of true wealth that Wall Street doesn’t want you to know.

***Actually, that part is true. Dead star, all the way. Not making it up.

A montage set to music: The best movies of 2013

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Movies are all around us. Kind of like the Force, before George Lucas ruined it with all that claptrap about midichloridians or whatever.

Films live inside your TV, your iPhone, your laptop. They’re sitting on shiny metal disks and even being celebrated in these insanely large and dark stadiums where you pay $12 for popcorn and a Diet Coke that costs 20 cents.

And if you’re anything like me, movies are something magical.

So there’s this professional movie critic, David Ehrlich, a man you’d think only takes joy in ripping apart SMURFS 3: ARE WE THERE YET, PAPA SMURF while praising some black-and-white existential French movie where the hero finally kisses the girl and promptly gets hit by a bus–well, you’d think critics like him wouldn’t create something so joyful and beautiful as this.

Except of course he would. Why does anybody become a movie critic, book reviewer or rock journalist? Because they love nothing more than movies, books and making fun of Axl Rose and Vanilla Ice trying to stage a comeback.

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 skips right to three villains, which is nuts

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

So, it’s the second movie in the series that already had three movies in its previous incarnation. Let’s skip the usual insane pattern of having two villains and go straight to three: Electro, the Green Goblin and Rhino. Seriously?

This is getting a smidge ridiculous. Will we see four villains in the third movie and five in the fourth? The original trilogy of Spiderman movies starring Tobey Maguire went like this:

SPIDERMAN: one hero, one villain (Green Goblin, played by Sergeant Elias from PLATOON). Well done.

SPIDERMAN 2: one hero, two villains (Doc Octopus and James Franco, who likes to write novels while going back to college, plays the angry Son of Green Goblin by using all of the acting range of that dude who played Anakin Skywalker).

SPIDERMAN 3: one hero, three villains (Sandman, Venom and grumpy Son of Green Goblin).

THOR also followed this silly formula, with one villain in the first movie (Loki) and two villains in the second (angry pasty space elf plus Loki again).

The first movie that started our current comic-book movie craze, the original Batman directed by Captain Crazypants (love you, man), had one hero (the Batman, by Michael Keaton when he had hairs), one villain (the Joker by that dude from THE SHINING) and Alec Baldwin’s ex-wife No. 2 or whatever as the girl for Batman to kiss.

BATMAN RETURNS had two villains: Danny Devito in a fat suit, munching on raw fish, plus Christopher Walken with crazy hair, while the love interest was Michelle Pfeiffer rocking a catsuit.

BATMAN FOREVER featured Val “Top Gun” Kilmer as Batman, some man from Grays Anatomy as Robin, Jim Carrey going insane in a green bodysuit as Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones trying to camp it up as Two Face–so yes, so technically, this third movie in the series didn’t have three villains, but it’s a hot mess of a reboot directed by Joel Schumacher, so all bets are off.

BATMAN AND ROBIN gave us two sidekicks (Robin again and a Clueless blonde famous for being in Aerosmith videos) plus three villains: Arnold in a neon suit spouting his worst one-liners ever, Uma Thurman wasted as Poison Ivy and Bane as a walk-on. This film was also directed by Joel Schumacher and is an even bigger mess than his first one.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The rebooted and awesome Christian Bale-Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman movies wisely veered away from the Hollywood formula of “For every new movie in a superhero series, pile on more villains and sidekicks until we have to reboot this train wreck.”

BATMAN BEGINS had two villains: Qui-Gon Jinn as Ra’s al Ghul (nobody can pronouce either name, so don’t even try) and Mr. Pretty Face himself, Cillian Murphy, doing an amazing Scarecrow, and yes, he was rumored to be in the running to play Bruce Wayne in the first place. Keanu Reeves would say, “Whoah,” except guess who turned down THE MATRIX to do some other movie? Will Smith. DOUBLE-WHOAH.

THE DARK KNIGHT gave us the two best acting performances for comic book villains ever, with Heath Ledger nailing the Joker and Aaron Eckhart rocking as Two Face.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES could have three villains, if you count the cameo by Scarecrow, but let’s go with two and say Bane plus the sneaky Miranda Tate, daughter of Qui-Gon Jinn, and let’s give credit to Anne Hathaway as the best love interest ever for Batman.

So what can we learn from all this?

Hollywood executives, please pour your energies and not into hiring three different screenwriters for $2 million apiece to rewrite these train wrecks, but focus from the start on a simple truth: the more villains and sidekicks you throw into a script, the less you get out of them.

Why Hollywood is plagued by The Invincible Hero problem

Now that the Avengers have assembled into a giant machine that prints dollar bills, the X-Men are getting rebooted and Batman/Superman are teaming up to create billions more for an entirely different set of studio executives who live across the street from the Marvel folks, there’s something we need to discuss.

Because there’s a common problem with all of these movies–except for Batman, and we’ll get to that.

The Invincible Hero problem.

I’ve seen all three movies involving Thor and his hammer, and yes, the hammer has some crazy Norse name, and even though I’m a Swede nobody knows how to really pronounce the thing. IT’S A HAMMER.

Those movies are fun, and great, but tell me this: how do you hurt Thor, or kill him?

Because I don’t have a clue.

So there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI explosions happening, and Iron Man grabbing Thor to fly him into trees and a cliff and such, but all amazing special effects that cost more than my house and your house and every dollar we’ll ever make in our lifetime, well, they don’t really move me, because I’m never worried about Thor being injured or killed.

You can throw the man around, blow him up, stab him with Loki’s sneaky dagger, punch him with the Hulk, and none of that really matters. The only proven way to hurt Thor is to remove Natalie Portman from the picture.

The first Thor movie was better than the sequel because for a good chunk of it Thor didn’t have his powers. He was just a man who could get hurt, lose a fight or even die, and it was his willingness to sacrifice himself and die that made Odin restore his powers.

See, when a hero is invincible, you don’t worry about them. And when you don’t worry about them, you stop caring about bullets and thugs and whatever else the villain is throwing around.

Superman is the worst offender. When you look at heroes on the screen like Wolverine and Captain America, they don’t seem to get hurt, since both guys regenerate and such. But they’re powers aren’t crazy like the boy from Krypton, who can (a) run faster than a speeding bullet, (b) fly, including going into space without needing to breathe, (c) shoot heat rays from his eyes when they’re not (d) busy taking x-rays of your bones, (e) ice anything with frost breath, (f) move so fast he GOES BACK IN TIME and (g) 17 other powers I don’t have time to list.

When you’re so powerful and invincible that tank shells bounce off your skin (Superman, Hulk) or armored suit (Iron Man), it’s hard to ramp things up without jumping the shark. Should we have Hulk get hit by a comet, or throw Superman into a black hole to see what happens? Also, no barber could cut Superman’s hair or trim his beard, right? He’d look like the lost fourth member of ZZ Top.

Batman is a better, more interesting hero because he’s simply a man. You know his bones can break, that the villain can truly hurt or kill him. It matters.

Hollywood could fix this problem, if it cared to, by setting up in each of these bazillion-dollar stories not just how cool the hero is and what amazing things he or she can do.

Tell us, up front in Act 1, what the hero can’t do. Show us a few weaknesses and how they can get hurt or even killed. Because then in Act 2 and 3, we’ll care a lot more about those CGI explosions and bullets as part of the story instead of eye candy that doesn’t really affect the story.

Honest trailer: THE AVENGERS

Oh, this is well-done.

I liked THE AVENGERS and THOR, along with CAPTAIN AMERICA and IRON MAN, though I do agree that IRON MAN 2 was smothered in useless sidekick nonsense.

Favorite line: “Witness the excitement … of Iron Man fixing a spaceship for 20 minutes.”